With just a few weeks to go in the school year, Stephen steps back to observe his fourth grade class during independent reading, reflecting on how far they’ve come as readers since the start of the year. He doesn’t measure their growth merely in terms of standards or discrete skills. Instead, he sees the ways his class of nine and ten year olds have worked to become a community of engaged and thriving readers over the past eight months.
He smiles as he thinks about how far some of his students have come. Elsa, who was a self-proclaimed non reader in September, is now devouring Jason Reynold’s Track series. Vince, who had a tough time establishing an at-home reading practice due to the challenges of sharing a small bedroom with two younger siblings, is now carving out time to read during what Donalyn Miller refers to as on the edges– those in between times when a few spare minutes can be found here and there. While Stephen sees much to celebrate, the thought of summer approaching also brings concern.
On the other side of the school, Dolores is busy conferring with one of her first graders, Viet. Dolores can’t help but revel in how Viet now takes charge of her own reading life. At the start of the year, Viet had a tough time holding a book and turning pages one at a time. Now, eight months later, Viet takes great care making choices while book shopping and carefully creating an ordered stack of books at the start of independent reading time. She now happily readies herself for 25+ joyful and purposeful reading minutes each day in class.
Like Stephen, Dolores worries about what the summer months may mean for her readers when they are away from the guidance and care of a teacher, a classroom library full of books, and a predictable time for daily independent reading.
Educators like Stephen and Dolores all over the country are thinking about the impending summer away from school and what it means for our students. We’re guessing you probably are, too.
Summer can be a scary, unpredictable space where our students take what we’ve offered and either use it or potentially lose it while they are away from school. The summer months humbly remind us that the point of school isn’t school at all. Rather, the point of school is preparing kids for life outside of school. When it comes to reading, summer is definitely a test of what has stuck in terms of reading habits and what has not.
To gauge and guide our work in this area of healthy reading habits we’ve come to rely on one powerful essential question, “Is the reader making intentional decisions that result in lots of time spent reading both in and out of school?” (To Know and Nurture a Reader, pg. 94).
Today, we offer thee specific ideas to support you and your students as you reflect on and respond to this question while thinking about each of your students during the last weeks of school.
These ideas are meant to help you to increase the likelihood that when summer arrives, students don’t leave their reading commitments behind, but instead are ready to carry the healthy reading habits they’ve worked so hard to develop during the school year with them into the summer months.
Tip #1 Plan Healthy Habits Lessons and Check-Ins Between Now & Summer Break: All year long, you’ve poured your heart into to getting and keeping kids engaged in lots of independent choice reading every day. Now, it’s time to support them in taking charge of keeping that reading going when you aren’t there.
Making time for reflection is the place we like to start. One way to do this is to consider offering a short lesson focused on inviting students to reflect on their current healthy reading habits and habits they’d like to commit to working on before summer arrives. This planning sheet for students may help.
Another idea you might try is highlighting the healthy reading habits that you notice in the classroom. Ask students to consider which of these they feel confident they are ready to carry over into their lives outside of school, and which they might decide to continue to work on.
When Christina did this with her class, they created the chart seen above together. The anchor charts you create with your readers will be unique to their thoughts and identified reading habits.
Tip #2 Invite Students to Create Individual Summer Reading Plans: Once you’ve helped your community of readers start to reflect on and talk about reading habits, you can move them into intentional planning for summer reading. As adults, we know the power of planning and goal setting in our own lives. We know that we are more likely to do something if we make specific plans before we embark on the task or goal. Now is the time to help kids leverage that same power in order to avoid the possible summer slide.
Summer reading plans will look different for each reader. Since no two students will experience the same summer break from school, no two readers should have an identical plan. As you help readers plan for summer, you’ll want to help them consider in detail:
- What they have interest in reading
- How they will choose books to read
- How they might access books
- When and where they will build in time for reading
- Who they will talk to or connect with around their reading
- Contingency plans- the best laid plans always have a back up!
We invite you to model this for your students. Creating your own summer reading plan in front of your students will support them in thinking about and creating their own plans. Let them see the process you go through. Allow them hear you think about how you’ll get books, when and where you’ll read, and how you’ll share your reading. This kind of modeling holds an immense amount of power.
To see what this might look like in practice, take a peek at a few summer reading plans created by students: Christina’s students’ plans from last year. For more detailed insight on summer reading plans, Kari offers specific ideas about summer planning in her free ebook here.
Avoid leaving planning for summer reading until the last days of school. The idea is to help your students internalize these plans before they head off for the summer. So, we suggest helping kids dig into planning as soon as you’re able- even three to four weeks out is not too early! Have kids keep those plans close at hand, sharing them with each other, revising, and visualizing what their summer reading might look like until the very last day.
Tip #3 Leverage the Power of Conferring: Once you’ve helped students reflect on their current habits and draft some concrete summer plans, you’ll be ready to leverage the power of conferring in a new and intentional way.
Of course it’s no secret that we believe there is no more powerful way to make a difference in a reader’s life than committing to the practice of conferring. This personalized one to one learning conversation is the perfect venue to help kids strengthen and realize their summer plans.
Taking the time to sit down with a reader, look in their eyes, explore and offer your partnership in strengthening their plans for summer reading will go far. Wondering about what and how they’ll read this summer, affirming the great ideas they have to help themselves read away from school, and offering additional ideas or suggestions will empower them. This personalized conversation you offer for each student can help to make their plans more intentional, more specific, and more likely to to happen.
Supporting young readers in reflection and planning not only helps to strengthen their reading habits now, but also sets them up for more success once they leave our doors. So, if you don’t want to see your efforts toward nurturing reading lives walk out the door with your students, now’s the time to dig in.
-Kari & Christina